Fort of Graça
2014 World Monuments Watch
The Fort of Graça occupies an important strategic position near the Portuguese border town of Elvas. Elvas was strongly fortified during the Portuguese War of Independence in the seventeenth century, and two major forts were later constructed on hills near the town, offering a strong position from which to defend against attack. Designed to withstand intense bombardment, the Fort of Graça was built between 1763 and 1792. It sits on massive earthworks and consists of three heavy lines of defense separated by deep ditches in the tradition of Vauban. Long considered an exemplary work of military engineering, the fort helped resist the Spanish advance into Portugal in the brief War of the Oranges, and it later saw action during the Napoleonic Wars.
Although its strategic importance declined over time, and the fortifications gradually became obsolete, the town maintained its military aspect and the army only left Elvas at the end of the twentieth century. Demilitarization has provided new opportunities for the reuse of this important heritage structure, and the “Garrison Border Town of Elvas and its Fortifications” was inscribed on UNESCO’s World Heritage List in 2012. The Fort of Graça was under the ownership of Portugal's Ministry of National Defense, but the municipality of Elvas took over management of the site in 2013.
The structure was included on the 2014 World Monuments Watch in order to encourage heritage professionals, the Ministry of National Defense, and the municipality to collaborate in implementing a management plan for this well-preserved fort and in realizing its potential for heritage tourism and adaptive reuse.
Watch Day was celebrated at the Fort of Graça in October 2014, and included a presentation of the site’s conservation process. Participants also enjoyed an exhibition on the 2014 Watch and a guided tour of the fort.
Since the Watch
In July 2014, the government of Portugal announced that the Fort of Graça would receive €5.6 million for its restoration from the National Strategic Reference Framework as part of the European Union cohesion policy for 2014-2020. Conservation of the site started in early 2015 and included consolidation of the battlements’ masonry, deforestation and clearance of vegetation from the terraces, replacement of interior flooring and plaster moldings, conservation of the decorative paintings in the chapel and central stronghold, consolidation of the exterior walls, and installation of electricity, water, and sewage systems. When the fort is reopened, it will be used as a cultural activities venue.